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Daily Readings from the Christian in Complete Armour
By William Gurnall, James S. Bell
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1994 James S. Bell Jr.
All rights reserved.
The Christian's Call to Courage
Who among us has not learned from his own experience that it requires another spirit than the world can give to follow Christ fully?
There are so many who profess Christ and so few who are in fact Christians; so many who go into the field against Satan, and so few who come out conquerors. All may have a desire to be successful soldiers, but few have the courage and determination to grapple with the difficulties that accost them on the way to victory. All Israel followed Moses joyfully out of Egypt. But when their stomachs were a little pinched with hunger, and their immediate desires deferred, they were ready at once to retreat. They preferred the bondage of Pharaoh to the promised blessings of the Lord.
Men are no different today. How many part with Christ at the crossroad of suffering! Like Orpah, they go a short distance only (Ruth 1.14). They profess the Gospel and name themselves heirs to the blessings of the saints. But when put to the test, they quickly grow sick of the journey and refuse to endure for Christ. At the first sign of hardship, they kiss and leave the Savior, reluctant to lose heaven, but even more unwilling to buy it at so dear a price. If they must resist so many enemies on the way, they will content themselves with their own stagnant cisterns and leave the Water of Life for others who will venture farther for it. Who among us has not learned from his own experience that it requires another spirit than the world can give to follow Christ fully?
Let this exhort you, then, Christian, to petition God for the holy determination and bravery you must have to follow Christ. Without it you cannot be what you profess. The fearful are those who march for hell (Revelation 21:8); the valiant are they who take heaven by force (Matthew 11:12). Cowards never won heaven. Do not claim that you are begotten of God and have His royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove your lineage by this heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.
You Are Part of Christ's Armor
God Himself underwrites your battle and has appointed His own Son "the captain of [your] salvation" (Hebrews 2:10).
You should find great strength and encouragement in the knowledge that your commission is divine. God Himself underwrites your battle and has appointed His own Son "the captain of [your] salvation" (Hebrews 2:10). He will lead you on to the field with courage, and bring you off with honor. He lived and died for you; He will live and die with you. His mercy and tenderness to His soldiers is unmatched. Historians tell us Trajan tore his own clothes to bind up his soldiers' wounds. The Bible tells us Christ poured out His very blood as balm to heal His saints' wounds; His flesh was torn to bind them up.
For bravery none compares with our Lord. He never turned His head from danger, not even when hell's hatred and heaven's justice appeared against Him. Knowing all that was about to happen, Jesus went forth and said, "Whom seek ye?" (John 18:4). Satan could not overcome Him — our Savior never lost a battle, not even when He lost His life. He won the victory, carrying His spoils to heaven in the triumphant chariot of His ascension. There He makes an open show of them, to the unspeakable joy of saints and angels.
As part of Christ's army, you march in the ranks of gallant spirits. Every one of your fellow soldiers is the child of a King. Some, like you, are in the midst of battle, besieged on every side by affliction and temptation. Others, after many assaults, repulses, and rallyings of their faith, are already standing upon the wall of heaven as conquerors. From there they look down and urge you, their comrades on earth, to march up the hill after them. This is their cry: "Fight to the death and the City is your own, as now it is ours! For the waging of a few days' conflict, you will be rewarded with heaven's glory. One moment of this celestial joy will dry up all your tears, heal all your wounds, and erase the sharpness of the fight with all the joy of your permanent victory."
Head and Heart
If your heart is not fixed in its purpose, your principles, as good as they may be, will hang loose and be of no more use in the heat of battle than an ill-strung bow.
He who has only a nodding acquaintance with the king may easily be persuaded to change his allegiance, or will at least try to remain neutral in the face of treason. Some professing Christians have only a passing acquaintance with the Gospel. They can hardly give an account of what they hope for, or whom they hope in. And if they have some principles they take kindly to, they are so unsettled that every wind blows them away, like loose tiles from a housetop.
When Satan buffets and temptation washes over you like a tidal wave, you must cling to Gods truths. They are your shelter in every raging storm. But you must have them on hand, ready to use. Do not wait until it is sinking to patch the boat. A feeble commitment has little hope of safety when caught in a tempest. While that flounders and drowns, holy determination, grounded in the Lord, will lift up its head like a rock in the midst of the highest waves.
Scripture promises, "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). An angel told Daniel which men would stand up and be counted for God when tempted and persecuted by Antiochus. Some would be taken in by the bribery of corrupt men; others would fall victim to intimidation and threats. But a few, who were firmly grounded in the tenets of their faith, would do great things for God. That is to say, to flatteries they would be incorruptible, and to power and force, unconquerable.
Head knowledge of the things of Christ is not enough; this following Christ is primarily a matter of the heart. If your heart is not fixed in its purpose, your principles, as good as they may be, will hang loose and be of no more use in the heat of battle than an ill-strung bow. Half-hearted resolve will not venture much nor far for Christ.
The Christian's Call to Service
Those sins which have lain nearest your heart must now be trampled under your feet. And what courage and resolution this requires!
The soldier is summoned to a life of active duty, and so is the Christian. The very nature of the calling precludes a life of ease. If you had thought to be a summer soldier, consider your commission carefully. Your spiritual orders are rigorous. Like the apostle, I would not have you be ignorant on this point and will, therefore, list a few of your directives.
Those sins which have lain nearest your heart must now be trampled under your feet. And what courage and resolution this requires! You think Abraham was tested to the limit when called upon to take Isaac, "thine only son ... whom thou lovest" (Genesis 22:2), and offer him up with his own hands. Yet what was that to this: "Soul, take the lust which is the child dearest to your heart, your Isaac, the sin from which you intend to gain the greatest pleasure. Lay hands on it and offer it up; pour out its blood before Me; run the sacrificing knife into the very heart of it — and do it joyfully!"
This is more than the human spirit can bear to hear. Our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar as Isaac, nor as the Lamb brought dumb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Our flesh will roar and shriek, rending the heart with its hideous cries. Indeed, who can express the conflict, the wrestlings, the convulsions of spirit we endure before we can put our heart into such a command? Or who can fully recount the cleverness with which such a lust will plead for itself?
When the Spirit convicts you of sin, Satan will try to convince you, "It is such a little one — spare it." Or he will bribe the soul with a vow of secrecy: "You can keep me and your good reputation, too. I will not be seen in your company to shame you among your neighbors. You may shut me up in the attic of your heart, out of sight, if only you will let me now and then have the wild embraces of your thoughts and affections in secret."
Stay on Course To The End
We have known many who have joined the army of Christ and liked being a soldier for a battle or two, but have soon had enough and ended up deserting.
There are times when a saint is called to trust in a withdrawing God. "[Let him] that walketh in darkness and hath no light ... trust in the name of the Lord" (Isaiah 50:10). This requires a bold step of faith — to venture into Gods presence with the same temerity as Esther into Ahasuerus's. Even when no smile lights His face, when no golden scepter is extended to summon us to come near, we must press forward with this noble resolution: "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16).
Which leads our faith one step further: We must trust also in a "killing God." We must declare with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15). It takes a submissive faith for a soul to march steadily forward while God seems to fire upon that soul and shoot His frowns like poisoned arrows into it. This is hard work, and will test the Christian's mettle. Yet such a spirit we find in the poor woman of Canaan, who caught the bullets Christ shot at her, and with a humble boldness sent them back again in her prayer (Matt. 15:22–28).
Your work and your life must go off the stage together. Persisting to the end will be the burr under your saddle — the thorn in your flesh — when the road ahead seems endless and your soul begs an early discharge. It weighs down every other difficulty of your calling. We have known many who have joined the army of Christ and liked being a solder for a battle or two, but have soon had enough and ended up deserting. They impulsively enlist for Christian duties, are easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion, and are just as easily persuaded to lay it down. Like the new moon, they shine a little in the first part of the evening, but go down before the night is over.
Taking up the cross daily, praying always, watching night and day and never laying aside our armor to indulge ourselves, sends many sorrowful away from Christ.
The Source of the Saint's Strength
God can overcome His enemies without help from anyone, but His saints cannot so much as defend the smallest outpost without His strong arm.
The strength of an earthly general lies in his troops — he flies upon their wings. If their feathers get clipped or their necks broken, he is helpless. But in the army of saints, the strength of the whole host lies in the Lord of hosts. God can overcome His enemies without help from anyone, but His saints cannot so much as defend the smallest outpost without His strong arm.
One of God's names is "the Strength of Israel" (1 Samuel 15:29). He was the strength of David's heart. With Him, this shepherd boy could defy the giant who defied a whole army; without God's strength, David trembled at a word or two that dropped from the Philistine's mouth. He wrote, "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" (Psalm 144:1). The Lord is likewise your strength in your war against sin and Satan.
Some wonder whether a sin is ever committed without Satan having a part. But if the question were whether any holy action is ever performed without involving the special assistance of God, that is settled: "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). Paul put it this way: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 3:5) We saints have a reservoir of grace, yet it lies like water at the bottom of a well and will not ascend with all our pumping. First God must prime it with His awakening grace. Then it will gush forth.
Paul says, "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Romans 7:18). Both the will to do and the action which follows are of God. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). God is at the bottom of the ladder, and at the top also, the Author and Finisher, assisting the soul at every rung in its ascent to any holy action.
The Significance of God's Strength
"God uses the conscience to give some knowledge of His righteousness to all, so that no one can stand before Him on the Day of Judgment and plead ignorance" (Romans 1).
God alone is the source and sustainer of all life; therefore, it is His constant regenerating power that keeps the conscience alive.
Conscience may be defined as that divine influence at work in man to restrain him from sin. One evidence of its origin is that it always speaks against sin and for righteousness. Therefore, it cannot be the product of our own hearts, which in their fallen state are "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). God uses the conscience to give some knowledge of His righteousness to all, so that no one can stand before Him on the Day of Judgment to plead ignorance (Romans 1). When you become a Christian and consecrate yourself — conscience and all — to Him, the Holy Spirit begins in earnest to perfect you in Christ.
It is said when God made the world He ended His work of creation — that is, He made no more new species of creatures. Yet to this day He has not ended His work of providence. "My Father worketh hitherto," Christ said (John 5:17). In other words, He continually preserves and empowers what He has made with strength to be and to act. A work of art, when complete, no longer needs the artist, nor a house the carpenter when the last nail is in place. But God's works on behalf of both the outer and the inner man are never off His hands.
If the Father's work is a preserving one, the Son's is a redemptive one. Both acts are perpetual. Christ did not end His work when He rose from the dead, just as the Father did not end His work when He finished creation. God rested at the end of creation; and Christ, when He had wrought eternal redemption and "by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). From there He continues the work of intercession for the saint, and thereby keeps him from certain ruin.
God's Plan for Provision
"The Christian ought to rely on divine strength because this plan results in the greatest advancement of God's own glory" (see Ephesians 1:4,12).
If the provisions were left in our own hands, we would soon be bankrupt merchants. God knows we are weak, like cracked pitchers — if filled to the brim and set aside, the contents would soon leak out. So He puts us under a flowing fountain of His strength and constantly refills us. This was the provision He made for Israel in the wilderness: He split the rock, and not only was their thirst quenched at that moment, but the water ran in a stream after them, so that you hear no more complaints for water. This rock was Christ. Every believer has Christ at his back, following him as he goes, with strength for every condition and trial.
The Christian ought to rely on divine strength because this plan results in the greatest advancement of God's own glory (Ephesians 1:4, 12). If God had given you a lifetime supply of His grace to begin with and left you to handle your own account, you would have thought Him generous indeed. But He is magnified even more by the open account He sets up in your name. Now you must acknowledge not only that your strength comes from God in the first place, but that you are continually in debt for every withdrawal of strength you make throughout your Christian course.
When a child travels with his parents, all his expenses are covered by his father — not by himself. Likewise, no saint shall say of heaven when he arrives there, "This is heaven, which I have built by the power of my own might." No, the heavenly Jerusalem is a city "whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). Every grace is a stone in that building, the topstone of which is laid in glory. Some day the saints shall plainly see how God was not only the founder to begin, but benefactor also to finish the same. The glory of the work will not be crumbled out piecemeal, some to God and some to the creature. All will be entirely credited to God.
Excerpted from Daily Readings from the Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall, James S. Bell. Copyright © 1994 James S. Bell Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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